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Definition: Amsterdam from Philip's Encyclopedia

Capital and largest city in the Netherlands, on the River Amstel and linked to the North Sea by the North Sea Canal. Amsterdam was chartered in c.1300 and joined the Hanseatic League in 1369. The Dutch East India Company (1602) brought great prosperity to the city. It became a notable centre of learning and book printing during the 17th century. It declined when captured by the French in 1795 and blockaded by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. Amsterdam was badly damaged during the German occupation during World War 2 (1939-45). A major port and one of Europe's leading financial and cultural centres, it has an important stock exchange and diamond-cutting industry. Sights include the Old Church (c.1300), the house of Rembrandt, the Royal Palace, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House. Industries: iron and steel, oil refining, rolling stock, chemicals, glass, shipbuilding. Pop. (2005) 1,157,000.

Summary Article: Amsterdam
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Constitutional capital and largest city of the Netherlands; population (2003 est) 737,900. The Netherlands' second most important port after Rotterdam, Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea by the North Sea Canal, completed in 1876. A new canal leading to the River Waal, south of Utrecht, was completed in 1952 to improve the connection between Amsterdam and the River Rhine. Industries include diamond cutting and polishing, sugar refining, clothing, printing, chemicals, shipbuilding, brewing, and tourism. Amsterdam, the seat of one of the world's chief stock exchanges, is also an international centre of banking and insurance. It is one of the great intellectual and artistic cities of Europe.

History At the beginning of the 13th century, when Giesebrecht II of Amstel built a castle at Amsterdam (which means dam on the Amstel), it was no more than a fishing village. The city became part of Holland in 1317, and passed to the control of the Duke of Burgundy in 1428. It was freed from Spanish domination in 1579. After the ‘golden age’ of the 17th century, when Amsterdam reached its apex as an intellectual and artistic centre and became a centre of liberal thought and book printing, it declined in maritime importance. The Prussians occupied the city in 1787, and it was taken by the French in 1795. Louis Bonaparte chose the city as the capital of the Netherlands in 1808.

The constitution of 1814 made Amsterdam the royal capital of the Netherlands; however, The Hague is the administrative capital. Amsterdam was occupied by the Germans during World War II (1940–45), and suffered severe hardship. Most of the city's Jews (c. 75,000 in 1940) were deported and exterminated by the Germans.

Features The city's rich cultural heritage, including several notable architectural features such as the Royal Palace (formerly the city hall, until 1808), completed in 1655, and a number of art galleries and museums, among them the Rijksmuseum, the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Rembrandt's house, and the Anne Frank house, make it a popular tourist destination. The Centrum (city centre) is circled by its noted canal system, fed by the Amstel River. The city is cut by about 40 concentric and radial canals that are flanked by streets and crossed by 400 bridges. Amsterdam has two universities, the Municipal University and the Free University. An international airport lies to the southwest at Schipol. An underground railway system now extends above ground to Bijlmermeer, a suburban development to the south of the city.

Location Amsterdam is in the province of North Holland, situated on the Het Ij, an inland harbour and inlet of Marketmeer, the southern part of the IJsselmeer.

Economy Amsterdam's principal imports are basic raw materials for a variety of industries, including food processing, tobacco, and beverages. Exports include dairy produce, paper, food products, and hides.

Architecture Amsterdam is an attractive city criss-crossed with canals (grachten) and bridges, to an even greater extent than Venice, Italy. In fact, it is often called the ‘Venice of the North’. Many houses are built on wooden piles, and the royal palace stands on 13,659 of them. In spite of construction problems caused by the flat, low-lying land with a high water-table, there are many high-rise buildings. The city possesses several notable buildings and institutions. These include the royal palace, which was originally built as a town hall; the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), a Gothic building dating from 1408 and notable for its stained-glass windows and monuments; the Oude Kerk (Old Church), dating from the beginning of the 14th century; the St Anthonieswaag, originally a town gate and now the Amsterdam Historical Museum; the synagogue of the Portuguese Jews, built in 1670; and the Koopmansbeurs (Exchange), completed in 1903. The flea market in Waterlooplein, with 300 stalls, has its roots in the flower power era of the 1960s and 1970s.

Museums The Rijksmuseum (founded 1808) contains the national collection of Dutch and Flemish pictures. Rembrandt lived in Amsterdam (1631–69), and his house is now a museum containing several of his paintings and illustrations. Other art galleries include Stedelijk and the Vincent van Gogh Museum. The Anne Frank house is another tourist attraction, as are the Historical Museum of Amsterdam and the Municipal Museum. The Weigh House housed the Jewish Historical Museum from 1932 to 1987. It was closed during World War II and reopened in 1955, at which time only a fifth of the original collection remained. In 1987, the museum moved to the restored complex of synagogues at Jonas Daniël Meijerplein.

History: 13th–19th centuries The city was chartered in 1300, and joined the Hanseatic League in 1369. In the 16th century Amsterdam accepted the Reformation and became known as a city of toleration for many religious refugees. Its prosperity greatly increased as that of Antwerp declined. In 1648, with the closing of the River Schelde by the Treaty of Westphalia, Amsterdam secured even greater advantages at the expense of the Belgian town. Much of its commercial success resulted from the foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 and the Bank of Amsterdam in 1609. It was officially recognized as the third city of the French empire from 1810 and 1814.


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